S&M Hunter Review
Chronicling the adventures of an unlikely sadist do-gooder, S&M Hunter is one of three films in the series made between 1985/1986 by prolific eighties pink cinema director Shuji Kataoka. Veteran pink actor Shiro Shimomoto stars as the eponymous anti-hero with an unequalled skill in bondage, whose favourite choice of hang-out ‘The Pleasure Dungeon’ welcomes all those ready to unload their dirtiest desires.
Their latest visitor is Joe (Bunmei Tobayama), an impatient and frustrated misogynist who is new to all of this S&M malarkey. After hearing the choices on offer, which includes masochism, costume and Scat play, he decides he’d like to try a bit of sadism on resident plaything Maria (Naomi Sugishita), who for this occasion is dolled up in nun attire. Joe is unashamedly ferocious with poor ol’ Maria, which leaves the dungeon master (Yutaka Ikejima) curious as to why he hates women so much. Enter S&M Hunter, who immediately realises that Joe isn’t in any way shape or form a true sadist or masochist. Sure enough Joe sits down and tells them of his troubles. It turns out that his gay lover Jack (Akira Fukuda) has been kidnapped by an all-female gang known as ‘The Bombers’. The gang, led by delinquent Machi (Ayu Kiyokawa), has holed up Jack in their hideout, where they each take turns playing games: the outcome determining who will get the next slice of Jack lovin’. S&M Hunter offers to help Joe in seeking out The Bomber’s hideout and rescuing Jack, with the plan to teach the girls a few extra lessons in love. But unbeknownst to him a figure from his past named Meg (bondage queen Hiromi Saotome) lies ready and waiting for the day she can finally enact her revenge on the man who left her a humiliated wreck.
Based on an original tale by Yoki Haruno, with an adapted screenplay by director Shuji Kataoka, S&M Hunter is a lean and spirited flick that delves into the kind of personal fantasy that often goes against social acceptance. There’s little shortage of ideas on display as Kataoka gleefully plays in a taboo-filled sandbox, only here he uses an abundance of religious motifs to shroud a series of sexual encounters. Hunter himself, an eye-patched clerical-collar wearing individual with bowler hat, who carries his ropes in a manner befitting of a Wild West gunslinger, preaches the virtues of sadism as he helps only the neediest of masochists, while Christian symbols adorn the interior of the den he frequents, not forgetting Maria, who never takes her habit off for a second (including when she has a quickie under the sleeping covers). Even Swastikas are thrown in our faces during the bonkers final act as if to bridge some divide between fascism and Asian cultural beliefs, while the homosexual snippets at times carry the no doubt intentional sting of ignorance. Hardly subtle then, even if Kataoka’s true intentions do remain somewhat ambiguous and open for interpretation, but neither do they need to be taken quite so seriously. This is after all played entirely tongue-in-cheek; Yutaka Ikejima for instance delightfully hams it up and seems to smile at us every ten minutes, so as not to cause a great deal of offence
But frankly speaking those offended are likely to be real stick-in-the-muds and not the intended audience anyway. This is comic-book storytelling with larger-than-life performances, much akin to the similarly themed anti-hero adventures of Hanzo the Razor and Rapeman, in which we manage to develop a strong liking toward to the central figure as he dishes out his own unique brand of justice; and it’s difficult not to like Hunter, what with Shimomoto oozing coolness, despite not being amazingly fleshed out. Sure enough the women once again fall easy prey to their senses as they beg for more sexual punishment and indeed much of the happenings here have been seen before in some form or another. S&M Hunter knows this much, being simply another offering in a niche genre that doesn’t pretend to be anything smart and sophisticated, although in a sense it is special. Kataoka can be applauded for the way in which he fiercely tackles the pacing of his stylised sixty-minute feature, establishing characters with ease and sneaking in several humorous gestures amidst showing off some fine displays of bizarre bondage; Hunter’s spider web technique and hilariously over-the-top Piece de Resistance involving a hoist truck are quite remarkable and well worth the price of admission alone. So with that just take it for what it is, which is slightly mad, and enjoy the - err - madness.
This is the first release for upcoming indie label Pink Eiga, who are specialising entirely in bringing us many more Pink features from Japan.
Pink Eiga issues S&M Hunter on a region free DVD-5, and the results are unsurprisingly average from the non-anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation. I’ve come to expect this visual quality from most pink titles on DVD, with very few companies offering stellar results; it doesn’t help when the materials provided aren’t up to the best of scratch, and here we have a Digibeta master converted from film negative. Immediately noticeable though is ghosting, aliasing, dot crawl and heavy ringing. Contrast is very poor, with terrible black levels resulting in little shadow detail, while overall colours do come across a tad murky. Subtitles are unfortunately hard-matted as well. I should point out that on wide setting the image is stretched so that it appears 2.35:1; I’m not certain if this is a flagging issue or not, however, by no means is it unwatchable fare if you’re simply interested in seeing a little oddity such as this.
The Japanese DD 2.0 track is perfectly acceptable. I rarely find much to say about these as they were never designed for huge theatrics. It does its job; dialogue is clear and Takashi Akutagawa’s score is enjoyable, with neither being bogged down by any distortion.
The English subtitles, despite my pet-hate of being forced onto the print, offer a solid translation despite some altered lines for comedic value; no grammatical errors or timing issues to my eye.
There are trailers for several upcoming Pink Eiga titles, mini biographies for director Shuji Kataoka, actors Shiro Shimomoto and Hiromi Saotome and finally a photo gallery at one minute in length.
A very fun little caper featuring some insane imagery and a pretty unforgettable central figure, S&M Hunter is a fine choice to kick-start Pink Eiga’s foray into Japanese exploitation cinema.